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Home Winners > Winners 2013 > NEW WORLD: Riesling

Winner Details

New World: Riesling


The Riesling renaissance continued here with five Golds outweighing some puzzlement about inconsistencies of style

Riesling has been a hot story throughout this year’s Sommelier Wine Awards. Entries from Alsace and Germany (if not Austria) were up significantly in 2013, and it was the same again from the New World. The result: a record haul of five Gold medals.

‘Riesling is a superb grape and it should have a couple of places on any list,’ announced The River Café’s Courtney Stebbings.

None of our tasters would argue with those sentiments – particularly not Sat Bains’ Laurent Richet MS. ‘Riesling!’ he exclaimed with the excitement of a puppy that has just tried its first dog-chew. ‘I love it love it love it! It’s just my favourite variety!’

The question was less ‘should we list some’ than ‘where should they come from?’ There were no medal-winning wines from Latin America this year (Chile has provided some in the past) and instead this became a three-way fight between Australia, New Zealand and the US.

The latter was arguably the most surprising. While wines from Washington/Oregon and the Finger Lakes have a growing reputation, they’ve never appeared in the Sommelier Wine Awards in any numbers, so it was good to see some picking up medals here.

The battle between Australia and New Zealand saw the pendulum swing in the former’s favour this year. Just.

While New Zealand had three excellent (and well-priced) Gold-listed wines, two of which also picked up extra awards, that was the sum total of the country’s medal-count. A lot of entries were kicked out, suggesting that when it gets it right it gets it very right, and when it gets it wrong it gets it very wrong. Our tasters particularly struggled with the combination of ripe fruit and residual sugar.

Australia, meanwhile, had strength in depth. Yes, it ‘only’ had two Golds, and yes, thanks to the turbo-charged Aussie dollar, there was nothing under £10, but the strength in depth was impressive. Seven medals, from Western Australia through the Clare Valley to Victoria, suggests that the country’s winemakers are beginning to make real strides with the grape.

There was still a certain inconsistency within the flights, but overall our tasters appreciated the fact that the Australians seemed to have an overall general style that they were moving towards – a taut citrusy character, but ever so slightly more relaxed than in the past.

The same, frustratingly, could not be said about their New Zealand peers.

‘I want a Riesling flight to stand out, to say what it is, like Eden or Clare Valley, but I’m not sure that New Zealand Riesling has achieved its own style,’ said York & Albany’s Nigel Lister.

That said, our team found a good selection of wines for different reasons from NZ: the Esk Valley as a well-priced by the glass; the Babich as a good match for fattier dishes such as pork belly (though it actually won the Green Curry Food Match gong), and the Critics' Choice-winning Woollaston to supply a bit of overall multi-tasking class.

Perhaps more Kiwi winemakers need to ask themselves ‘why would anyone buy it’, rather than ‘how should we make it’?

‘There’s no particularly compelling reason to stock Rieslings from other parts of the New World unless they’re delivering a better value for money or a different style,’ said Hakkasan’s Christine Parkinson. ‘I was expecting a few more dry styles.’


‘We loved the variety in our flight, but the difficulty with Riesling is that it appeals to people like us, but it doesn’t exactly walk off the list.’
Peter McCombie MW, team leader

‘The crisp Australian Rieslings would go well with fresh seafood on the grill. The wines with more sweetness and residual sugar are more inclined to go with dishes with some heat.’
Laurent Richet MS, Sat Bains


‘I want to find good Riesling that offers something different to Germany. Price is not an issue. It will sell to those who know about it or will be a sommelier hand sell.’
Jeremie Guiraud, Lords of the Manor.